Canadian Employment and Immigration Law Quarterly Update
Canada’s recovery continued in July as employment rose whether counting by hours worked or jobs created. In July, Canada posted the addition of 94,000 jobs for a total of 18,884k, an increase of +0.5%. Total hours worked were up 1.3% and were 2.7% below their pre-pandemic level. Correspondingly, this brings the unemployment rate down ever so slightly by -0.3% for a total of 7.5%. These numbers, while a good show for Canada’s recovery, were both below forecasts. 1
Of these numbers, part time work saw strong gains for the second consecutive month, this time especially amongst youth, which added 63,000 (+5.1%) jobs. Employment for core aged women rose by 30,000 (+0.5%) in July; in this category, full-time gains (+73,000; +1.5%) amply compensated for part-time losses (-44,000; -4.2%). This represents excellent momentum for categories of workers across Canada who have suffered greatly under the impacts of the COVID-19 restrictions. Full time work ultimately drove total growth, posting 83,000 new jobs.1
“This great pandemic dislocation is far from over,” says Henry Goldbeck, President of Goldbeck Recruiting. “It’s still difficult to see patterns emerging, or isolate lessons we’ll have learned when all this is over. But one thing is certain: activity is up, job seekers are active, and recruiters are very, very busy.”2
Labour Force Survey by Region
Employment increased in four provinces in July, with Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island posting gains. Saskatchewan is the only province which saw a decline in employment.1
Of the provinces that saw growth this month, Ontario posted the biggest change, adding 72,000 (+1.0%) new jobs in July, including an increase of 49,000 (+1.5%) in the Toronto metropolitan area. Also posting strong gains were Manitoba, which added 7,400 (+1.1%) new jobs and drove unemployment down to 6.1%. Nova Scotia added 3,700 (+0.8%) new jobs, posting more modest growth with gains mostly concentrated in health care and social assistance.1
British Columbia remained, for the second consecutive month, above pre-pandemic levels of employment; it is still the lone province having reached this benchmark.1
These middling gains, dispersed unevenly across the country, may be a snapshot of the employment landscape we face for the rest of the pandemic recovery. Provinces across Canada are lessening or removing COVID-19 safety restrictions just as the Delta variant begins to surge; there is no sense of crisis for many, but things have yet to truly return to normal. This is, by all accounts, the “protracted” recovery Canada was warned about; now, only time will tell if we’re in for another “Roaring 20s” or instead a “Boring 20s”.1
Labour Force Survey by Sector
|Industry||July 2021 Jobs Change||June Change|
|Natural Resources ( Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction)||1.3||-9.8|
|Transportation & Warehousing||10.6||-17.6|
|Finance & Insurance||14.8||-0.8|
|Wholesale & Retail Trade||13.0||+78.0|
|Professional, Scientific and Support Services||5.0||+18.3|
|Information, Culture and Recreation||3.2||+4.9|
|Accommodation & Food Services||35.2||+100.9|
|Business, Building & Other Support Services||6.5||+18.1|
July gains were perhaps predictably concentrated within the services-producing sector (+93,000), especially accommodation and food services. These are much of the gains found in part time work, and amongst youth workers.1
In accommodation and food services, employment rose by 35,000 in July. This gain builds on a remarkable spike in June of over 100,000 new jobs in the sector. Most of the monthly increase was attributable to Ontario and Manitoba. This growth is promising, however, food and beverage servers working in the industry continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and its restrictions. In July 2021, employment in this group was 109,000 (-37.7%) below the level recorded in July 2019.1
Notably, the number of people who work in the finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing sectors increased for the first time since April, climbing 15,000 (+1.1%). Though this industry had reached pre-pandemic levels by November 2020, stagnation through the later spring and early summer had experts concerned. This group was perhaps able to best weather the COVID-19 storm because so many were able to transition to remote work; in July, over 58% of people in this sector continued to work remotely.1
Lastly, Ontario posted impressive growth in its manufacturing sector in July. Despite difficult losses in the spring—partly due to plant closures resulting from semiconductor chip shortages and other supply chain issues—the industry has now fully rebounded, posting 20,000 new jobs. These gains were offset nationwide by losses in British Columbia and Quebec, but Ontario must be pleased to be in the black once more.1
Employment Market Activity Increases Sharply in Canada
After nearly a year and a half of stifled job market activity, levels of movement and hiring are finally recovering.
“For months, it was very difficult to get candidates to consider moving,” says Goldbeck. “At last, we’re seeing this change: employers are looking for candidates that can drive growth and candidates are looking for their next big opportunity. Our team has been very busy lately.”2
The strongest sectors include IT, SaaS, real estate, and finance. For John Posan, VP Sales at Sitedoc, hiring has been a top priority.
“SaaS companies are in a great position to hire,” says Posan. “As companies return to normal, there’s huge demand for this type of product; this means many SaaS providers are facing unprecedented growth and hiring accordingly.”4
“Over the next few months, I predict we’ll see a lot of hiring,” adds Posan. “Unfortunately, a lot of businesses didn’t make it through the pandemic but, ultimately, that represents a significant opportunity as well. There’s going to be lots of new organizations starting out, and they’ll be hiring, too.”4
With every passing month that part time work recovers, fears of a K-shaped employment recovery fade away.
“Executive search processes have carried on well and now I anticipate we’ll see aggressive hiring at the middle to lower tiers within organizations as leadership rebuilds the workforce,” says Goldbeck. “This is a great, promising trend for job seekers across Canada.”2
Post-COVID Expectations and Vaccinations in Hiring
With increased hiring activity across the country, the question of vaccine requirements (and their legality) has arisen for employers and candidates alike. This presents a new and unique challenge for which there isn’t necessarily a perfect legal precedent.
While waiting for formal precedent to be established and tested, law offices and human resources professionals across the country have been weighing in. Some argue that it is within an employer’s right to require vaccinations for all employees if no other less invasive measures would be suitable.3
For example, if a sales employee must travel to trade shows in the lower mainland of British Columbia, wearing a face mask may suffice. But if an employee must travel to the United States, which requires proof of full vaccination, nothing else will do—without the vaccine, the employee would not be able to fulfill their duties.
“This is certainly a challenging area for employers to navigate,” says Goldbeck. “For most employers, the number one concern is employee comfort and wellbeing. No one wants to force an employee to get a vaccine they don’t want.”2
“But if not being fully vaccinated either impedes the employee’s ability to perform or endangers the people around them in the workplace, there’s no other option,” adds Goldbeck.2
In the meantime, discussions around remote work carry on.
“A surprising number of employers expect their employees back in the workplace full time,” says Alessia Pagliaroli, Senior Recruiter at Goldbeck Recruiting. “And employees are responding by looking for other work. Flexibility is a top priority.”5
“We want people to be where they are most happy,” says Posan. “Some people want to return to the office full time, others never want to come back. The conversation about remote work is occurring earlier and earlier in the hiring processes.”4
“The vaccination and remote work consideration has been a deal breaker for both employers and candidates,” says Goldbeck. “Going forward, it’ll be critical to be up front about both of these expectations to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment in recruiting.”2